Pandemic has wreaked havoc on my 5+ years of therapy progress, help. (Long post)

In the last month, it has become clear that my mental health has taken a dramatic backslide on the progress that took painstaking years of effort to achieve.

I find myself unable to socialize with good friends without having a panic episode. Even a friendly stranger being chatty at a store is enough to set it off. Hobbies that bring me pleasure (videogames, gardening, music) set it off. If I partake in any interaction or activity that brings me joy, I end up losing my shit.

My panics are destructive and embarrassing – I lived with repeated traumas with an abusive alcoholic father growing up. At the time, being able to escape the situation (using violence if necessary, only defensive) and make a ton of noise and call people was necessary.

When I feel this way, I go through a series of stages – 1. Feeling of impending doom 2. Becoming uncharacteristically chatty and outgoing 3. Suddenly I can tell I am too intense 4. Running through coping mechanisms healthy and unhealthy. When tapping, pacing, ASKING TO LEAVE dont work (I am terrified to leave without permission), I will seek out coffee, tea, alcohol, food, really anything nearby that may alter my mood. It never works. 5. Trapped. If I am here, someone told me "please dont go" or "you cant leave NOW…. XYZ reasons", and this for whatever reason always always sets me off. 6. I completely self estruct, hurting myself in any way I can.

I am now 26, with an established career, a supportive partner, and some nice friends. While I have never kicked these behaviors entirely, they had become maneagable through therapy and medication (with the occasional misfire). How do I manage this sudden regression? I dont want to let my past ruin everything I worked so hard to achieve. This pandemic and the resultant isolation has brought my social coping mechanisms to ground zero. I miss having hobbies.

This all started again full force when I visited a couple friends for an evening fire in their backyard a month ago – I panicked at the end. This last week I had to postpone a welding test after spending hundreds on hotels and travel because a friendly server who I had ordered takeout from was kind of chatty and I panicked. My partner had to drive 2.5 hours at night to come and get me. 2 days later, it happened again following a car trip with a friend to retrieve my vehicle that I left hours away – and we had a nice ride, they told me how much they value our friendship and were so kind. I haven't made it past a load screen since spring, and haven't touched my instruments or listened to music in about the same time. Anytime I attempt to have fun, I am filled with dread and anxiety.

Im living in fear, and my wonderful partner is starting to suggest maybe I should be a 'stay at home' partner if this continues as my panics are so disruptive. He is willing to rearrange everything to accomodate me but thats so unfair for him. I'm dreading my job that I love. My therapist is reducing our sessions because I panic after. It would be easier if everyone treated me like the piece of trash that I feel like. I want to just live again. Help?

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